Future Teacher Pipeline Narrows Even Further

ACT Report Shows Fewer High School Grads Planning to Become Educators

The number and percentage of high school graduates interested in becoming an educator have significantly declined over the past four years, according to The Condition of Future Educators, a new report from ACT.

The report shows that only 5 percent (89,347 students) of the nearly 1.85 million 2014 U.S. high school graduates who took the ACT® test said they intended to pursue a career as an educator—either as a teacher, counselor or administrator. Both the percentage and number have steadily dropped each year since 2010, when 7 percent of graduates (106,659 students) planned an education major.

The decline in the number of students interested in an education career is even more striking given the fact that the total number of ACT-tested graduates has increased substantially—up by 18 percent—during the same four-year period.

“The drop in the number of our young people who want to become an educator is truly alarming,” said Jon Erickson, ACT president. “Unless something changes quickly, the supply of new teachers may not meet the future demand.”

According to the US Department of Education, a teacher shortage already exists in many states and subject areas, particularly math and science. The National Center for Education Statistics has reported that the need for elementary and secondary teachers is projected to increase over the next several years.

Other recently released ACT data suggest that the pool of future educators is not likely to enlarge—and, in fact, could even decrease slightly—when students enroll in college and declare a major. The data show that more than half of ACT-tested 2013 graduates who intended to pursue an education career switched to another major within their first two years of college, while a slightly smaller number of students who had planned another type of career switched to an education major.

The ACT findings also call into question the overall preparation levels of students planning a career as an educator. The percentages of future teachers who met the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in math, science and reading remained lower than those of the population of national test takers, as was the case in 2010.

“Quality teaching is a crucial element in getting students ready for college and career,” said Erickson. “We must be concerned not only with increasing the overall number of students who plan to become educators but also with attracting more of the best and brightest students to the field.”

The report also reveals that diversity continues to be lacking among future educators. Among ACT-tested graduates who planned to pursue an education major, 72 percent were white, compared to 56 percent of all tested graduates. Previous studies have suggested that K–12 students may benefit from being taught by a teacher of the same race.

In addition, young women are much more likely than young men to consider a career as an educator. Nearly three-quarters of those ACT-tested graduates interested in an education career were female, including nearly 95 percent of those interested in early childhood and elementary education.

“The pipeline of future teachers doesn’t reflect the diversity of the student population that it will be serving,” said Erickson. “We need to find ways to encourage more minority students and males to consider a career as an educator.”

The report offers recommendations on how to help drive greater interest in the teaching profession among a diverse population of high-achieving students, including:

  • recruiting high achieving college students who are undecided about their future careers,
  • promoting alternative pathways to teaching, and
  • improving educator benefits.